Inside the Dell PC Restore Partition

An Exploration by Dan Goodell
Restoring Dell's MBR Boot Code

Dell uses customized boot code that diverts the boot process to the 'DB' partition when Ctrl+F11 is pressed. This boot code can easily be overwritten by other, non-Dell applications. Note that although the Dell MBR is specific to Dell, it is not specific to the machine or model. It makes no difference which Dell model you have, how your hard disk is partitioned, or which operating system you are running.

To restore the Dell MBR boot code, you must first obtain a copy of the Dell MBR. Copyright laws prevent me from making a copy of the Dell MBR available for download, but if you have another recent Dell desktop or laptop, you probably already have your own copy of the Dell MBR. Then it's just a matter of saving a backup of the MBR from the source disk and restoring the backup to the target disk.

There are many utilities around that can save and restore the MBR, although most seem to restore the entire MBR sector, not just the boot code portion. I have included with dsrfix.zip my utility, MBRsaver (mbrsaver.com), which has been specially designed to allow you to restore just the boot code portion of the MBR sector. (Note:Type "mbrsaver" without any options to get a syntax help screen.)



WARNING: MBR backup tools save an entire sector (512 bytes), which contains not only the boot code, but an NT Serial Number (aka, Disk ID) and a partition table. You do not want to overwrite your partition table! The partition table that is part of the MBR backup from another machine almost certainly won't match your own partition table. The partition table is the index to your hard disk's partitions. Overwriting this index with a mismatched copy from another computer may render some or all of your partitions unreadable. The purpose of copying the MBR from another machine is to restore your boot code, not your partition table.
To use MBRsaver, follow these steps: If you use an alternative tool instead of MBRsaver, you should be able to follow the same general procedure. Just make sure you don't lose your own partition table.


author: Dan Goodell

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